The state budget for 2021 essentially incorporates two years into one in the first quarter, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday in Parliament.
During his address in the plenary session before the vote on the new state budget, Mitsotakis said that the government was focused on promoting reforms that will lead Greece back to a growth trajectory, but warned that execution of the budget depends on the exact duration of the pandemic.
Stressing that Greek society was at the core of concerns for the 2021 budget, the premier said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government was forced to follow two parallel paths - relieving the repercussions of the pandemic and continuing the reforms for medium-term development. The goal, he said was to end inequalities and increase public wealth to benefit all Greek people.
Addressing main opposition SYRIZA, the premier said that the so-called state reserves the party keeps insisting it left behind are less than those claimed. "GDP data for the 2015-2018 period were revised, and it was proven that the previous government had left the public coffers with 5 billion less," Mitsotakis said. "Our answer is the new reliability of the economy," he added, which has allowed borrowing at favorable rates.
Mitsotakis also criticized Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras for not revealing the truth about unemployment statistics. "In the second quarter of 2020, Eurostat has placed Greece among EU countries with the fewest jobs lost. This is not data for rejoicing, but it does prove that our policy to protect work and jobs was effective," he said, before adding that "unemployment is the first form of injustice, and we will fight it at all levels."
Regarding Turkey, Mitsotakis said in Parliament that what the government has achieved in international fora is that pressure on Turkey is increasing.
Speaking at the plenary debate before a vote on the 2021 draft budget, Mitsotakis responded to main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras mentioning the United States Treasury decision on sanctions against government officials, among others. He also said "our position has not changed - when challenges end, then talks may begin."
Mitsotakis insisted that measures against Turkey by the EU "are not the end-all, be-all," but that the government wanted to "restore a communications channel with Turkey and reduce tension. The threat of sanctions may lead Turkey to change behavior - it's the only policy that can prove truly fruitful for Greece," he noted.
The premier also announced the signing in Athens shortly of an agreement with France to purchase 18 Rafale fighter jets, that France will deliver within 2021. "Never before has such a complicated and significant armaments program been executed so quickly and effectively," he said. In addition, the procurement of frigates, drones, and updated equipment for the Armed Forces, the upgrade of F-16s, and the hiring of 15,000 professionals in the defense sector will take place within the next five years, he noted. These were budgeted in the current, 2020, budget at nearly 5.5 billion euros, an increase in national defense expenditures of 57 pct over 2019, Mitsotakis said.
Mitsotakis also mentioned other plans of the government, including a large-scale investment in electromobility that will be announced on Wednesday, and resolving the issue of outstanding pensions.